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8 Tips For Filing with USCIS, DOS and More

A wise woman once said, “Common sense isn’t so common!”  In that vein, today’s article covers the common tips that are easily overlooked but can make an important difference for practitioners when it comes to preparing documentation for filing.  When filing a petition, application, brief, motion or response to government agencies, appearances matter.  You have one opportunity to make an important first impression. Ensuring your package of documents survives this litmus test is not difficult to achieve.  For certain court filings and other consular filings though, be sure to check with the local rules as those may trump the tips below.

1. Pagination/Headers and Footers: The practice of immigration is like no other practice areas.  Attorneys are generally not required to submit briefs on pleading paper or use certain fonts or font sizes when submitting directly to the Departments of Homeland Security, Labor or State.  (Exceptions apply in litigation and court-related matters.)  Nevertheless, it’s important to ensure your briefs contain the proper pagination, headers and footers, in the event the pages ever become detached from its fasteners.

2. Index of Exhibits: Supporting documentation is ubiquitous in immigration filings.  This is all the more reason why the index of exhibits should be detailed rather than a mere list.  The index is prime real estate providing practitioners another opportunity, in addition to the brief, to persuade the adjudicator.  By way of illustration, a simple index list might refer to:

Exhibit A         Yelp Review Postings by Applicant from July 2010 to Present

However, a detailed index of exhibits would instead provide answers to the “who/what/when/where/why/how” so an adjudicator, upon review, can understand the relevance and context of each exhibit prior to inspection.  A detailed index might therefore indicate the following instead:

Exhibit A         Yelp Review Postings by Applicant totaling more than 85 reviews evidencing Applicant’s contemporaneous admission of physical presence at 30 restaurants, 40 stores and 15 local businesses in Dallas, Texas from July 2010 to Present.

3. Highlighting:  Yellow is the preferred color but any bright colors that emphasize a particular area on an exhibit is important.  For example, if your brief quotes from an exhibit, highlight that portion of the exhibit to alert the adjudicator that is the section they should focus.

4. Using Charts or Graphs: If data is presented or being compared, the use of charts of graphs can be a compelling piece of evidence rather than just writing about it.  For visual learners, a chart or a graph will resonate much stronger than reading an entire page of text.  Selecting the right type of visual presentation will be important in displaying all types of data:

  • Qualitative Data: non-numerical data by categories, physical traits, gender, colors, etc.
  • Quantitative Data: numerical data
  • Paired Data: data sets that are compared with each other

5. Color Printing: Not all documents need to be submitted to the government in a color, but sometimes, it’s helpful.  For example, a chart or graph can benefit the intended audience when submitted in color, especially if the data is represented in different color blocks on the chart or graph.  Color printouts are also so much easier on an adjudicator’s eyes, especially since they review black and white documents all day long!

6. Tabs or Divider Sheets: This should come as no surprise that tabs or divider sheets should absolutely be used.  In fact, they should be very distinguishable from the rest of the exhibits.

7. Fastening Methods: Two prong metal fasteners at the top of a portrait page are best unless otherwise indicated by the local rules.  Be sure your metal fasteners are secure!

8. Chronology: If the presentation of exhibits involves presenting documentation according to a timeline, then ensure your exhibits adhere to that timeline as well.  All extraneous exhibits should either be placed at the beginning or end so as not to disrupt the chronology.